Ten Things Florida Residents Should Know About Divorce

All Florida residents who are planning to get a divorce must know about some of the different Florida laws regarding divorce. By knowing these things, you will save yourself both time and sanity.

(1) Florida is a "no-fault" divorce state
Florida being a "no-fault" divorce state means that there is no call to accuse your spouse of adultery, abandonment or abuse because neither party is at fault for having done anything. In order to file for a no-fault divorce in Florida, you only have to say the marriage was "irretrievably broken" and as long as both parties agree, and there are no children, the court most likely will grant the divorce with no additional steps. Although, in the case of one spouse not agreeing that the marriage was irretrievably broken or if children are involved, the court will order marriage counseling by either a religious minister or a marriage counselor.

(2) Florida has certain residency requirements
At least one party must be a Florida resident to file for divorce in Florida, or one of the parties has to be stationed with the military in Florida. Whether in the military or not, either you and or your spouse must have lived in Florida for at least six months prior to filing divorce papers plus, you have to prove that residency by providing a Florida Driver's License.

(3) Filing your divorce petition
Any divorce petition filed in Florida must be filed in the county where one of the parties lives. If the parties live in different counties, the petition should be filed in the county where the parties lived as a married couple or the court will have the option of transferring the case to that county. When the petition is filed in the proper county, the Clerk of Court then issues a summons that together with the petition, just be served on the other party. The party who had the petition served, must wait 20 days for the other party to respond. After the 20 days, the parties must meet for mediation in order to come to agreements in regards to spousal support, property division and child support. If all agreements can be reached, you may not have to go to court and the divorce can proceed to the final hearing. In the case of children, Florida requires both parties to go to a seminar where they will learn about and discuss issues regarding the children and the divorce.

(4) Options exist if you cannot locate your spouse
As long as you live in Florida, you can still get a divorce whether you know where your spouse is or not. Before you can file for divorce in Florida, you have to make a "good faith" attempt to find your spouse wherever you think she or he may be. The steps involved in conducting the search include speaking with friends or family, contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles, and placing notices in any newspapers for the right amount of time. After you have completed all the search steps, another pleading must be filed with the court after which you will go to a hearing before a judge who will decide to either grant the divorce or not.

(5) Dividing property
According to the divorce laws in Florida, each spouse can keep any "non-marital" property, along with any non-marital debts they had before the marriage. If the couple is not able to come to an agreement on the division of debts and assets by themselves, the court will come up with one itself in the form of an "equitable" distribution of the marital property. Even though the court tries to make the division equal, sometimes it does not always happen.

(6) Determining spousal support
Florida courts may award alimony, also known as spousal support, if it finds that alimony is "well founded." The court will use several factors in determining if alimony is well founded including the ages and health conditions of each spouse, how long they were married, the ability to pay alimony, what the standard of living was that enjoyed while married and what the needs are of each spouse.

(7) Determining child custody and child support
In Florida, child custody and support are determined by what the courts deem as "the best interest of the child," and whether the couple are able to work out an agreeable arrangement for custody. Even though a child or children will live with one parent more than the other, Florida usually assigns both parents joint custody where they each will share all the responsibilities regarding their child or children. The guidelines set by Florida law are strict concerning child support and include: What the income is of each parent, what the daycare expenses are, what the expenses are for any special needs children, how many children there are, and the child health insurance expenses.

(8) Divorce mediation may be helpful
Mediation may be necessary, and is preferred over litigation, if the couple cannot agree on issues regarding property division, child support, child custody and spousal support. Mediation is where a third party, the mediator, comes in to help the couple come to agreements in a calm manner that will be possible solutions for the court to order. While arbitration is binding, mediation is not meaning the couple does not have to agree to any conclusions reached in mediation, and they can still go to court to litigate.

(9) A simplified divorce process exists for certain couples
In Florida, a couple can get a "Simplified Dissolution of Marriage," which is the fastest and easiest way to get divorced. However, Florida does require the parties, 1. agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, 2. provide proof of residency, 3. the wife is not pregnant, 4. have no minor children from the marriage, and 5. they have come to agreements about division of property. As long as all these issues are satisfied, the parties can go from filing a petition for divorce to the final hearing in 21 to 31 days only because the hearing date must be at least 21 days after the divorce petition is filed with the court.

(10) The process may be very fast, or take a very long time
If a divorce petition is filed as uncontested, it can only take a few weeks to complete as long as the parties agree to child or spousal support, property division and child custody. The petition must also meet all the requirements for pleadings according to the laws in Florida. Also in Florida, if your petition is filed in a county with a full docket, it will take longer to finalize and if your case is contested in any way, full litigation will be required.

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